Underexposed bird-in-flight image corrections

We’ve all had situations where we have underexposed images. This short article shows some simple things that can be done to an underexposed bird-in-flight image.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

I decided to use a few, simple adjustments in OpticsPro 11 to illustrate one approach to deal with an underexposed image. If you don’t use OpticsPro 11 the software that you do use very likely has similar types of adjustments that you can utilize. First, let’s have a look at the out-of-camera jpeg.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 147mm, efov 396, f/5.3, 1/1600, ISO-450

Obviously I messed up this image big time. But, let’s not worry about that and do a few simple things to try to improve it.

To begin I opened up the RAW image file in OpticsPro 11, allowing the software to do all of its automatic corrections.

These resulted in some initial improvements to the image in terms of some lightening of the sky and more wing details.

I then added my V2 bird-in-flight preset. This includes a few additional OpticsPro adjustments:
Highlights -20
Global Lens Softness 1.20
Details Lens Softness 70
PRIME noise reduction

In other software ‘Lens Softness’ may be referred to as ‘sharpening’.

You’ll notice a slight darkening of the image. This happened because my V2 bird preset reduces highlights by -20. I typically do this to all of my Nikon 1 images to ‘thicken them up’ a bit in order to better hold details.

To keep things very simple I used the Automatic micro-contrast setting in OpticsPro 11. To do this all I needed to do was click on the magic wand icon on the Microcontrast control setting. OpticsPro 11 then chose a setting of 11.

It is a bit hard to see in the screenshot, but adding some micro-contrast will help edge acuity and enhance feather details.

Some of you may be wondering why I haven’t bothered to deal with the underexposure of the image yet. Using a preset in OpticsPro will supercede any other adjustments made so I use it first, then make other changes to the image. If I had adjusted the exposure in OpticsPro 11 first and then applied my preset the lightening of the image would have been overridden by the preset.

Next, I clicked on the Spot Weighted control under DxO Smart Lighting. I then created a small box and moved it around on the image to see how I could adjust the balance between the shadows and highlights in the overall image.

You can see from the screenshot that I ended up choosing a section of the gull’s wing that had a good mix of highlights and details.

Now I was ready to adjust the exposure of the image.

With this image I chose a setting of 1.22 in Exposure Compensation with the resulting image below being created.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikon CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 147mm, efov 396, f/5.3, 1/1600, ISO-450

I think most folks would agree that there has been quite a reasonable improvement to the original image by doing some simple adjustments in OpticsPro 11. Again, these could have been done in any one of a number of other software programs so there’s no intention on my part to specifically recommend OpticsPro in this article.

This was just a very quick example that only took about a minute and a half to do in OpticsPro 11. No doubt with additional time and care a better result could have been achieved. The objective of the article was to illustrate some very quick and simple fixes that anyone could do with a minimum of time to an underexposed bird-in-flight image.

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4 thoughts on “Underexposed bird-in-flight image corrections”

  1. Boy do I love that “Spot weighted” option in DxO. For those unfamiliar with the program, that option was added to DxO in Version 11, so you won’t find it if you are using an earlier version of DxO. While the DXO Smart Lighting function was decent without this new option, to me this feature alone was worth the upgrade (my personal 2 cents worth). I shoot a lot of sports, and there are numerous times when the subject is backlite, which makes this option very helpful. WEJ

    1. Hi William,
      I’m finding it useful for a wide range of photographs and not only for backlit subjects. In situations where the sensors in my Nikon 1 gear have been pushed in terms of dynamic range (i.e. blocked in shadows and little highlight detail) the Spot Weighted tool in Smart Lighting can really make a difference. Thanks again for sending me a few of your sample images earlier and encouraging me to try this feature in OpticsPro 11.

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